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Home arrow Movies arrow Superman Returns

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Superman Returns Print
Written by Mike Noel   
Monday, 03 July 2006
Superman Returns
In Superman Returns Superman returns to Earth after a five year absence. He spent those five years searching for evidence that some people from his home planet, Krypton, may have survied the planet's destruction. His search finds no one so he returns to Earth dejected and depressed. About the same time that Superman returns Lex Luther swindles his way out of jail and begins to execute his plan to take over the world and at the same time extract revenge on Superman for putting him in jail in the first place. The very standard plot line follows. Luther tries to do something bad then Superman stops him. Luther gets mad and sets a trap for Superman. Superman falls into the trap and Luther thinks he's dead. Superman doesn't die but instead returns to defeat Luther. In the end Superman wins and Luther loses.
Of course the relationship between Superman and Lois Lane is one of the main points of interest in the continuing Superman saga. In this movie, because of the five year absence, Lois Lane has moved on. She has a son and is living with the father. Although they aren't yet married we get the impression that they eventually will be. Lois has some reservations about marriage so she is the one holding them back. When Superman returns the old fires that Lois thought were long dead start to rekindle and we find that Lois's reservations about marriage may not be based on ideology as much as her hope that Superman might return. Where this ends up is one of the small subplots of the movie.
The lack of any complexity or sophistication in the plot made the movie dull and wearisome to sit through. If that was the only problem in the movie it probably would still have been interesting to watch. Unfortunately there were other issues and it just didn't live up to expectations.
The Superman movie franchise changed the movie industry. It created an entire genre of movies -- the comic book adaptation. Before the first Superman movie in 1978 there were no serious, big-screen adaptations of comic book stories. The success of this series of movies was the motivation to create other series such as Batman, Spiderman, X-men, and numerous other comic book movies. In some ways, Superman Returns became a victum of this success. Since the last Superman movie was made (1987) comic book movies have made huge strides in the use of special effects and character development (plot sophistication still has a way to go). Viewer's expectations have been raised to a new level that is quite a bit higher than what the original Superman series provided.
This caused a problem for Superman Returns. In the 1980's it was cool to see someone fly around the sky or levitate off the ground. People were still looking to see if they could see the wires. In the 2000s flying people and flying objects are commonplace in movies. An airplane falling out of the sky and being rescued at the last second is no longer fascinating. We've seen it done a million times before. Superman Returns didn't offer anything new or interesting in the area of special affects. It didn't live up to expectations that other comic book movies have created.
The three main characters in Superman Returns are Lois Lane, Superman, and Lex Luther. The movie does an unremarkable job in providing any depth to the characters. Lois Lane can't make up her mind what she wants to do with Superman and she ends up being wishy-washy with no real purpose in the movie. Superman reveals very little of what's going on in his head. Instead we see numerous shots of him posing miles above the surface of the Earth with an enigmatic expression on his face. Maybe the facial expressions are meant to give us clues to the feelings churning inside. Finally, Lex Luther's character is haphazardly drawn. There's not enough continuity in his actions for viewers to get a picture of what he is. He appears to be a madman at one time and them moments later he is a cold, calculating villian who is in total control of his sense. A scene later we find a Lex Luther who is neither of those but instead is simply a misunderstood philanthropist who is trying to make the world a better place according to his idea of what is best. So is he the madman, the selfish mastermind, or the deluded would-be savior of mankind? It seems like maybe there were too many writers in that kitchen.
Superman Returns was made for a sequel. Many parts of the movie just seem to be setups for a follow-on movie. Unfortunately this works against the movie. The show became too distracted with thinking of how things would resolve in the next movie so that it never really developed the current one. This left viewers with a feeling that they really hadn't seen the full story. Almost as if Superman Returns was the season premier of a new television series.
Superman Returns didn't live up to the hype. A predictable plot, sup-par special effects, and flat characters resulted in a summer fizzle that should have been a blockbuster.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 03 August 2006 )

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